You might not believe what you see when you look at the lineup that Davey Martinez put out there in the series opener with the Chicago Cubs in Nationals Park, but GM Mike Rizzo held a fire sale over the last 24 hours, and shipped a lot of soon-to-be-free agents out (as well as Trea Turner) in an attempt to reboot the roster and the organization as they are building the next contender in the nation’s capital.
The players that are left, played a clean game, with Paolo Espino giving the team another solid start and Luis García, Alcides Escobar, Josh Bell, and Yadiel Hernández all driving in runs in what ended up a 4-3 win.
Espino vs the Cubs: In seven starts this season before tonight, Paolo Espino, 34, put up a 3.06 ERA, six walks, 20 Ks, and a .258/.289/.442 line against in 32 1⁄3 IP, and the righty was coming off an outing against the Orioles in which he gave up just five hits and three runs, all on solo homers, taking the loss in a 5-4 game in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
“I felt that I pitched good, just a couple mistakes, a few bad locations,” Espino said of his start against the O’s, “maybe a couple bad decisions on pitches, but I think overall I did okay.”
Espino tossed two scoreless to start tonight against the Cubs, and he came back out for the top of the third with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of a solo home run by Luis García, but gave it back, with leadoff and one-out doubles by Sergio Alcantara and Rafael Ortega, respectively, tying things up at 1-1 in the series opener in Nationals Park.
It was 2-1 Nats after three, then Espino retired the Cubs in order in a 10-pitch fourth, and a 13-pitch fifth, in which he worked around a one-out single, left him at 69 pitches overall.
With a 3-1 lead after five, Davey Martinez sent his starter out for another inning of work, but a one-out single to center by Ian Happ, on Espino’s 76th pitch, ended his outing...
Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 76 P, 51 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
Ace up our sleeve.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 31, 2021
(Paolo Espino has a 2.87 ERA as a SP this season.)#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/10PFrLX7OJ
Arrieta vs the Nats: Jake Arrieta faced the Nationals earlier this season in Wrigley Field, and gave up seven hits, two walks, and four earned runs in 5.0 IP in a 4-3 loss for the pitcher and the Cubs, and the 35-year-old right-hander got another shot at Washington’s ballclub in the nation’s capital tonight, where he arrived with a 6.30 ERA, 36 walks, 66 strikeouts, and a .284/.363/.515 line against in 17 starts and 74 1⁄3 IP on the season.
Arrieta tossed a scoreless, nine-pitch first, but two pitches into the second he and the Cubs trailed 1-0 after Luis García hit an 0-1 sinker out to right, over the out-of-town scoreboard for his first home run of the season (in the majors) and a 1-0 Nats’ lead.
Luis García turned 21 years old in May.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 30, 2021
He plays elite defense up the middle.
He just launched a no-doubt HR to right-center.#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/x2jdMaMeBz
It was 1-1 in the third when Andrew Stevenson doubled to center to start the Nationals’ half of the inning, and he moved to third on an Alcides Escobar bunt in the next at bat, and the speedy outfielder scored from third on a throwing error by Arrieta trying to get Escobar at first base, 2-1.
Jake Arrieta’s Line: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 57 P, 40 S, 6/0 GO/FO.
Bell Rung: Josh Bell, in his last 35 games coming into the series opener with the Cubs, had a .289 AVG, four doubles, a triple, eight home runs, 27 RBIs, 12 walks, and 18 runs scored, as a bullet point in the Nationals’ pregame notes mentioned, and the 28-year-old slugger made it nine home runs in his last 36 games when he hit one out in the bottom of the fifth, taking lefty Adam Morgan deep from the right side, his 7th on the season against a left-hander, vs. 10 from the left side of the dish in 2021. Left-side Bell is catching up to you, Right-side Bell.
BELL-ted over the bullpen.@JBell_19 // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/wuipLcayUB— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 31, 2021
Bullpen Action: Adam Morgan came on for the Cubs in the bottom of the fifth, and retired the first two batters he faced before Josh Bell got hold of a 1-2 slider and hit it out to left to put the Nationals up by two, 3-1. Bell’s 17th of 2021.
Andres Machado took over for the Nationals with a runner on first and one out in the top of the sixth, and stranded the runner he inherited to keep it a 3-1 game after six.
Cubs’ righty Michael Rucker retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth, but a two-out walk to Carter Kieboom gave Yadiel Hernández a two-out pinch hit at bat that he took advantage, hitting an RBI double off the wall in center to drive Kieboom in for a 4-1 lead. Hernández’s third double of the year.
Ryne Harper retired the Cubs in order in an 11-pitch top of the seventh inning, and he came back out in the top of the eighth and he got one out but gave up a one-out single by Rafael Ortega before the Nationals went to the pen again.
Gabe Klobosits, who was called up today, made his MLB debut with a runner on and one out in the eighth, and gave up a double to left by Willson Contreras, that put runners on second and third, both of whom scored on a two-out Patrick Wisdom ground ball through the left side (underneath Carter Kieboom’s glove), 4-3, before the right-hander got out No. 3.
Kyle Finnegan came on with a one-run lead and gave up a leadoff single by Jason Heyward, but got a 4-6-3 DP for the first two outs and liner to second to end it. Ballgame.
Final Score: 4-3 Nationals
Nationals now 48-55